POSTED: April 30th 2012

London 2012: Heathrow immigration in knots just months before Olympic Games

How long will it take to get into the Olympic city? / SFC
How long will it take to get into the Olympic city? / SFC

LAURA WALDEN / Sports Features Communications

TAMPA: London’s Heathrow airport is struggling now to cope with incoming traffic just months ahead of the Olympic Games escalating growing concerns as to what will happen when millions descend on the host city. In leaked emails obtained by The Daily Telegraph, the Home Office has tried to ban Heathrow from informing the public of the delays.

The Telegraph reports that incoming passengers had to wait hours to pass through immigration and the BAA, owner of the airport, issued a leaflet to apologize for the delay and stating that visitors deserved “a warmer welcome”. However it also suggests that they should voice their complaints to the British Home Office.

Marc Owen, the director of UK Border Agency operations at Heathrow, deemed it “inappropriate”.

“The leaflet is not all right with us. It is both inflammatory and likely to increase tensions in arrivals halls especially in the current atmosphere.

“It is inappropriate in that it is not for you to display how to complain on our behalf.

“Please refrain from handing out [the leaflets] or I will escalate [the matter] with ministers who are likely to take a very dim view. I know there are copies in the hall and your troops are ready with them.”

Owen also requested the BAA, who owns Heathrow, to ban passengers from taking pictures of long lines further documenting the incoming traffic issues.

The situation developed after lenient immigration measures were identified that had been put in place by Brodie Clark, the former head of the Border Office. In an effort to beef up security full passport checks have been reinstated.

Compounding the situation the government has reduced the number of Border Force officers from 8,874 in March, 2010, aiming to get down to 7,322 by March, 2015.

Some of the passengers were even able to blaze their way past officials without any security checks at all.

Technology glitches added to the delays as finger print machines and high tech Iris recognition and new automatic passport scanning gates failed.

Fast Track passengers also felt the wait as they are supposed to clear immigration in half an hour however The Telegraph reports that they were missed nine times already in the first two weeks of April.

Ease of entry and accreditation is a huge responsibility for any host city and is also a main requisite for any bidding city and London will have their share of headaches as they endeavor to smooth the process to greet the millions that will enter the country for the Games.

Keywords · London 2012 · Heathrow · BAA · transport · tourism · immigration · Olympic Games

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